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Samsung Releases New 12 Gb/s SAS, M.2, AIC And 2.5" NVMe SSDs: 1 Million IOPS, Up To 15.63 TB

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Samsung laid the groundwork on several fronts for new and innovative enterprise flash products at the Flash Memory Summit 2015. It all starts with the company's 3D TLC V-NAND building blocks. V-NAND allows Samsung to cram more capacity into smaller form factors, while retaining higher performance and endurance metrics in comparison to competing planar NAND products. 3D V-NAND also has the advantage of lower overall power consumption.

Samsung started the 3D NAND arms race several years ago, and the company proved out its TLC NAND platform in the client space. Samsung has sold over 5 million TLC V-NAND SSDs, which is a strong proof point if customers question the viability of TLC NAND. 

Samsung added several notable products to its war chest at the show. The SM953 kicks off the NVMe party with capacities of 480 GB, 960 GB and 1.92 TB in the 2.5" form factor. The svelte M.2 variant comes in either 480 GB or 960 GB flavors. These SSDs are geared for a wide range of uses, including data centers, mobile workstations, and ultra-slim notebooks.

This seems like an odd pairing of target markets for an SSD with power loss protection (PLP). OEMs typically aren't that interested in the additional cost of PLP for notebooks because this is a very cost-sensitive segment, to say the least, but we have spotted the previous-generation SM951 both with and without PLP features. The SM953 utilizes 3D TLC V-NAND with the proven Samsung-proprietary UBX controller to provide 1,000/870 MBps sequential read/write and 240,000/19,000 random read/write IOPS.

The 2.5" PM1725 comes in capacities of 800 GB, 1600 GB and 3200 GB and is powered by the EPIC PCIe 3.0 x4 controller. Very little is known about this controller, but it provides an impressive 3,100/2,200 MBps sequential read/write and 750,000/120,000 random read/write IOPS in a 2.5" form factor. The PM1725 has very competitive specifications, in particular the random write performance.

The PM1725 also leverages an EPIC controller, but this controller is obviously modular because it expands out to x8 with the AIC iteration. This HHHL NVMe SSD enables up to 1,000,000/120,000 random read/write IOPS. (Yes, a million IOPS from a single PCIe SSD.) The SSD also weighs in with a blistering 6,000/2,200 MBps of sequential read/write speed in robust capacities of 3,200/6,400 GB. The SSD also features the obligatory power-loss protection features, but adds in dual-port functionality (x4 x4) and multiple namespace support -- which are critical requirements that will help NVMe SSDs encroach upon the SAS space. Make no mistake, this is on my Christmas list.

The PM1633 is a 12 Gbps SAS SSD in the 2.5" form factor that comes in 480 GB, 960 GB, 1.92 TB and 3.84 TB capacity points. This SSD features TLC V-NAND with the REX controller and sports sequential read/write speeds of 1,100/1,000 MBps and random read/write IOPS of 180,00/15,000 read/write IOPS.

SAS SSDs continue to experience a strong growth trend, and Samsung is already rumored to be very cost-competitive in this space. Several other vendors, such as Toshiba and the Micron/Seagate alliance, have recently rolled out their newest 12 Gbps SAS offerings, but they all feature planar 2D NAND. Samsung also has the SM1635 with MLC and the REX controller on offer for the more intense workloads. There is little doubt a war is brewing in the SAS market.

The PM1633a is the talk of the town, largely because it is the single highest-capacity SSD of any ilk on the market. This statement includes PCIe SSDs and HDDs of all varieties, which is a true testament to the engineering effort that went into the SSD. Packing 15.63 TB of NAND into a 2.5" x 15 mm SSD is an accomplishment in its own right, but there are several key questions that will need to be answered as the product works its way to market. 

Extremely dense designs are thermally challenged, which can lead to lowered performance metrics and high airflow requirements. Dense designs almost always consist of multiple PCBs. Some of these designs are better than others, as mezzanine connectors and ribbon-cable designs each have pros and cons. We don't know the technical details as of yet, and Samsung's announcement doesn't include any specifications or detail on the performance of the SSD.

The incredible density provides some insight into Samsung's vision for the future, and we know they will be utilizing it in a new set of reference JBOF (Just a Bunch Of Flash) designs. These designs benefit from the aggregated capacity and performance of multiple SSDs, which provide more than enough performance for most applications.

From a larger perspective, the PM1633a will offer system integrators and OEMs the magic flash capacity bullet, but the extra capacity isn't going to equate to a lower price point, likely limiting the target market to customized systems -- at least for the short term.

Many feel that Samsung hasn't really begun to pass the cost savings of 3D TLC V-NAND down to the huddled masses, largely because they have absolutely no competition in this space. As more vendors weigh in with competing 3D NAND products, we can expect flash prices to drop quickly, which will help foster interest in deploying large SSDs like the PM1633a outside of niche applications.

Samsung continues to leverage its 3D V-NAND products to expand its lead against competing companies, and until we have a real 3D NAND product from other vendors actually on the market, there is little doubt that Samsung will continue to enjoy a lead in several segments. Intel's IDF is next week, and we expect the company to fire off its own salvo of storage-centric news, but it will take a lot to upstage Samsung at this stage of the game.